Minnow Swimwear: “Young Canadian Designers Understand The Importance Of Ethical Production And The Footprint That Fashion Has On The Environment”

by: Courtney Sanders | 10 months ago | Features

Image: best mates and co-founders and designers of MinnowVanessa Warrack and Karen Donaldson. Image supplied.

The modus operandi of Minnow's co-founders and designers (and best mates!), Vanessa Warrack and Karen Donaldson, "we love clean lines and bold prints", might sound simple, but considering how much over-designed swimwear is out there, and considering how unnecessary over-design in swimwear is, this Canadian-based label has built up a cult following for their collection of simple one-pieces and bikinis with innovative details. Their ethical considerations are equally straightforward, "we believe our bathers should always be produced ethically in Canada", simple as that, because, for Vanessa and Karen, there’s simply no other way. The pair try to source their materials locally, made everything locally in their studio in Canada, and donate to Ocean Conservancy to offset the impacts of their production processes. We’re so excited to welcome Minnow to Well Made Clothes, so we caught up with Vanessa and Karen to discuss why they do what they do.

Courtney Sanders: Tell us about yourself: who is behind Minnow?
Vanessa Warrack and Karen Donaldson: Minnow is designed by best friends, Vanessa Warrack and Karen Donaldson.

Courtney: And why did you start an independent swimwear label?
Vanessa and Karen: We started a swimwear label because we couldn't find what we wanted to wear in stores.

Image: the Dante Maillot in Lilies at Twilight.

Courtney: Tell us about the design influences and principles which underpin Minnow.
Vanessa and Karen: We want to design swimwear which women of all shapes and sizes feel comfortable wearing. Swimwear should be playful and flattering; a garment you feel secure in, both in and out of the water. We are often inspired by costume history and '90s design as well as music, art, and film. We love clean lines and bold prints.

Courtney: And what are you particularly inspired by at the moment?
Vanessa and Karen: Right now we are very inspired by nature. This is our month for designing so we like to get out into nature as much as possible; going to the beach and cottages with our friends. We like to go swimming as much as possible; to move in the water, to see what designs work and what doesn’t. It’s a time for us to center. Move away from production for a moment and focus on designing and the creative aspect of the line.

Image: the Rosalie Top in Boreas.

Courtney: When you started Minnow, what values was it important to you that you upheld in the production process?
Vanessa and Karen: We believe that our bathers should always be produced ethically in Canada. As our company grows we still stay true to this belief and are transparent about who produces our garments. We also try to source all our materials and fabrics locally or at least within North America. We make an effort to also donate to numerous charities in an attempt to promote awareness and offset production.

Courtney: And how did you go about this?
Vanessa and Karen: We started off producing everything ourselves. As our company has grown we have hired an amazing production team. We are also currently working out a partnership with a small Toronto-based factory created by fashion students. Their production team is very similar to ours: young, creative women who love fashion and enjoy sewing.

Image: the Rosalie Top in Midnight Narcissus.

Courtney: Your swimwear is all made in Canada in your Toronto-based studio. Tell us a little bit about your production team, and why it was important to keep production local.
Vanessa and Karen: Our production team consists of an amazing group of women; creative, independent women who are great at what they do.

Courtney: You’re based in Canada and we don’t hear a lot about the fashion industry in Canada (which is probably more our fault than anything else). Tell us a little bit about the industry there: is there anything which is being particularly championed by Canadian designers? Is there a Canadian ‘look’?
Vanessa and Karen: I really like that young Canadian designers understand the importance of ethical production and the footprint that fashion has on the environment. With that, many designers produce their garments in Canada. The concept of ‘handmade’ is no longer seen as crafty but rather a quality good with consciousness. Many designers also make the effort to use natural fibres and deadstock materials. The thing I like about Canadian fashion right now is that designs are very minimal and that vintage garments are incorporated into day-to-day wear.

Image: the Dante Maillot in Obsidian.

Courtney: What are you working on at the moment?
Vanessa and Karen: At the moment we are thinking about next year's designs. We are researching eco-spandex and reading a lot about our 2018 theme as well as researching imagery for new printed fabrics. We are creating a few bolder pieces with interesting design details which are top secret at the moment!

Courtney: What do you think are the most urgent concerns in the fashion industry that need addressing.
Vanessa and Karen: Waste and transparency are large concerns of ours at the moment.

Courtney: And how would you like to see the fashion industry change for the better?
Vanessa and Karen: Overall I think the fashion industry can become a lot greener. Being one of the most wasteful industries I believe it is important to make every effort possible to minimize waste.

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